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Withings ScanWatch Review: A Smartwatch for People Who Don’t Like Smartwatches

Rating: 7/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $300
THe Withings ScanWatch covered in water.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

Even if you’re someone who’s interested in tracking your health, sleep, exercise, and daily step count, an Apple Watch or Fitbit can be a hard sell. Those smartwatches have a ton of unnecessary features, their battery life sucks, and hey, some people don’t want to wear a big screen on their wrist. But that’s where the Withings ScanWatch comes into play.

With its hybrid analog-digital design, simple selection of features, and crazy 30-day battery life, the ScanWatch stands out among the sea of all-digital smartwatches. It’s already a hit in Australia and Europe, and it’s now available in the United States with FDA approval for its ECG feature.

But as much as I love the SacnWatch, it’s hard to justify the $280 price tag. You need to fit in a pretty niche demographic to enjoy this product, as it lacks some features that come standard in cheaper smartwatches and fitness bands. So, let’s talk about it!

Here's What We Like

  • Looks like an analog watch, no distractions
  • Tracks heart rate, ECG, SpO2, sleep, and exercise
  • Clean and simple app
  • Incredible 30-day battery life

And What We Don't

  • Fitbit offers similar features and a better app at lower price
  • Lacks important features like NFC
  • Screen's too small for notifications
  • Bulky and heavy

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The Smartwatch Form Factor of My Dreams

The Withings ScanWatch's massive wrist band.
The included wrist strap is a bit big, but it’s replaceable. Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

Let me get something out of the way—I’m not a big fan of smartwatches. The technology is cool and useful, but I just can’t get excited about wearing a screen on my wrist, especially when that stupid little screen needs to be charged every night. Plus, I hate the idea of wearing the same watch every day and relying on it for basic tasks. Isn’t that what my phone is for?

Clearly, the ScanWatch is perfect for someone like me. It looks like a regular old watch, minus a small OLED display that’s tucked under its glow-in-the-dark hands. Despite the analog form-factor, this puppy provides all of the important smartwatch features that I actually care about. I can press the watch’s control dial to quickly see my step count and heart rate, and I can open the Health Mate app to see deep insights into my sleep or health. The secondary dial on the bottom of the watch also shows how close you are to reaching your daily step goal. So, if you’re halfway to your goal, its hand will point to 50.

Not to mention, the simple “hybrid watch” design and single-color display saves so much battery life. While an Apple Watch lasts up to 18 hours, the ScanWatch promises 30 days on a single charge. I’ve had the ScanWatch for over a month and haven’t charged it once, but it’s still proudly sitting at 10% battery life.

The Withings ScanWatch in three colors.
Withings sent me the black ScanWatch, but it comes in plenty of colors. Withings

You may experience a different battery life, though, because I don’t use the ScanWatch every day and have trouble sleeping with the big bulky thing. Withings sent me the larger 2.9-ounce model, which is about an ounce heavier than the average “men’s” watch. I probably should’ve asked for the smaller 2-ounce model, and I suggest that you do the same if you have tiny wrists or prefer a small watch.

Unfortunately, the ScanWatch is missing a ton of features that are standard for other brands. There’s no GPS or cellular support, for example. I guess this omission makes sense, as the ScanWatch doesn’t support NFC payments or music streaming. And while the ScanWatch can display smartphone notifications, you can’t exactly read a text message on its tiny OLED display.

If you’re a grumpy smartwatch hater like me, the ScanWatch’s limited set of features can feel like a bit of a bonus. But I have a feeling that the lack of NFC support will turn off a lot of customers, and I’m not sure why Withings skipped the feature in a $280 product.

A Great Product for Health Monitoring

The Withings ScanWatch scanning for a heart rate.
Taking photos of glow in the dark watch hands is harder than you’d think. Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

At its core, the ScanWatch is a product for monitoring health and fitness. It’s FDA-approved for ECG scans, and it delivers daily metrics to help you track your heart rate, sleep, and exercise. Given its simple design and emphasis on health, I think that this smartwatch is perfect for people who really just want to focus on the basics.

The ScanWatch provides both automatic heart rate readings and on-demand ECG readings. After comparing the heart rate monitor’s results to that of gym equipment, blood pressure machines, and good old fashioned finger-on-neck tests, I can confirm that it’s about as accurate as you’ll ever need it to be (smartwatch heart rate scanners are never 100% accurate). You’ll get a good sense of your resting heart rate, your heart rate while exercising, and how your heart rate changes after sticking to an exercise regiment or diet for a few months.

Additionally, the ScanWatch will warn you if it detects an irregular heart rate and suggest that you perform an ECG for deeper insight. Doing so can help you catch atrial fibrillation and other heart conditions early. (Your first ScanWatch ECG reading is reviewed by doctors at Heartbeat Health, by the way.)

And although I question the value of SpO2 sensors in some smartwatches, I think it makes sense in the ScanWatch. This is a health-first product, and the SpO2 sensor can provide instant insight into your blood oxygen saturation if you suffer from a condition that affects your breathing. Additionally, the ScanWatch tracks how you breathe when you sleep, which could help you detect sleep apnea.

As for the SpO2 sensor’s accuracy, it seems pretty on point when compared to a regular pulse oximeter. But it’s not like I’ve had a chance to really put the SpO2 sensor through a challenging situation—I haven’t caught COVID-19 or the flu while testing this watch, thankfully. (I’ll update you if things change!)

I just have one complaint here; Withings needs to improve its tutorials. The app presents you with short tutorials when you first use the ECG and SpO2 functions, but it doesn’t really explain how or why you need to place a hand on top of the watch while using these features (placing a hand on the watch completes an electrical circuit while scanning). Granted, I’m not great at following instructions, but I’ve seen other people complain about this problem.

Fitness Tracking … Hold On, I Haven’t Been Cycling!

Like a Fitbit, the ScanWatch can track your step count
and exercise (including swimming and cycling), tell you how many calories you’ve burned, and even has some built-in breathing exercises to help with stress or post-exercise recovery.

These exercise metrics sit in the Withings app so you can review your progress over time. And as I mentioned earlier, you can check your step count from the ScanWatch’s integrated display or its bottom dial, which tracks how close you are to reaching your daily step count. (Interestingly, the Health Mate app lets you set up step count leaderboards with family and friends, who can use their phone’s built-in pedometer to count steps if they don’t have a ScanWatch.)

You can use the ScanWatch’s control dial to tell it that you’re about to exercise, but most of the time, I just let it automatically log exercise. The ScanWatch can tell if you’re jogging, for example, and appropriately track the time spent exercising and calories burned.

That said, I sometimes feel like the ScanWatch is trying to flatter me. At least once a week, it logs exercise while I’m just driving or sitting around (at resting heart rate, according to the watch). I’ve even seen the ScanWatch log a few minutes of cycling when I was actually glued to the couch drinking beer—you can see this in the above screenshot, where Health Mate didn’t log the distance or speed of my “exercise.”

I don’t think that inaccurate exercise metrics are that big a deal, though. Smartwatches are never 100% accurate at tracking sleep, exercise, or health data. You can still work toward your goals and get a better understanding of your habits from smartwatches, so long as you use them consistently. (And if you don’t use them fairly often, what’s the point in even owning a smartwatch?)

A Clean But Dull App

One of my favorite things about the ScanWatch is its simplicity—yeah, I’m starting to sound like a broken record. The hardware’s simple, there aren’t any crazy features, and the Health Mate app is super straightforward.

Problem is, the Health Mate app feels a bit dull. Don’t get me wrong, the app gives you a ton of new metrics every day, including your step count, sleep score, average heart rate, and activities. These metrics accumulate over time to give you a big picture of your progress toward goals. You can even use the app to track your diet, blood pressure, and other metrics that the ScanWatch can’t detect on its own.

But when you enter the Health Mate app, you have to press an “All Health Data” to see more than just two or three metrics. It’s a far cry from the colorful Fitbit dashboard, which immediately shows you a ton of data without any need to scroll up and down.

To be fair, Withings’ Health Mate app isn’t just for smartwatches. Products like the Withings Smart Scale, Blood Pressure Monitor, and Sleep Mat can contribute extra metrics to the Health mate app, and the constant stream of new data may make the app feel more robust. In the above screenshot, you can see how weight metrics appear in Health Mate when you use a Withings scale (or manually input your weight).

Other than its empty vibe, the Health Mate app is great. It’s responsive and easy to use, and it connects to fitness apps like Google Fit, Strava, and MyFitnessPal. My only other complaint is that it can take a few minutes to process sleep data.

So, Who Is This For?

The Withings ScanWatch.

Unlike other smartwatches, the ScanWatch demands little attention and is incredibly easy to use. It has an exceptional 30-day battery life, accurate health sensors, and a low-key design. For these reasons, it’s a great option for people who want to track their exercise, daily steps, sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and more without wearing a giant screen on their wrist.

That said, the ScanWatch isn’t perfect. It lacks features that usually come standard at this price, such as NFC or GPS support and media streaming. The app is also a bit dull, which is a shame.

If you love the idea of an analog watch with fitness and health-tracking features, then the ScanWatch may be worth buying. But the ScanWatch is a $280 device, and if you take away its SpO2 sensor, its feature-set is nearly identical to the $100 Fitbit Inspire 2. For that reason, I think that the ScanWatch is a hard sell if you aren’t hooked on its analog design.

Rating: 7/10
Price: $300

Here’s What We Like

  • Looks like an analog watch, no distractions
  • Tracks heart rate, ECG, SpO2, sleep, and exercise
  • Clean and simple app
  • Incredible 30-day battery life

And What We Don't

  • Fitbit offers similar features and a better app at lower price
  • Lacks important features like NFC
  • Screen's too small for notifications
  • Bulky and heavy

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »